December 9th, 1980.
Just 12 years old, I was riding the 412 bus home from Melba High School by myself. It was quite safe in those days, and anyway I was so shy, I would never talk to strangers.
Driving up William Webb Drive, we were nearing the bus interchange behind the local shop at Spence. I would buy a chocolate paddle pop and then it was only a short walk home to watch some telly with my brother before our parents got home from work.
The bus driver turned his radio up loud.
Did he turn it up so that his half dozen passengers could hear, or because he could not believe what he was hearing?
John Lennon shot dead.
The bus fell silent.
It didn’t make any sense.
Rock stars died in plane crashes or from drug overdoses.
Shot in the back 5 times.
Dying in a pool of blood.
The bus pulled into the interchange. Still no one said a word.
Not stopping at the shop, I walked home quickly, desperately wanting to see my big brother. Wanting to hear him tell me it wasn’t true.
I found him in the shed and asked if he had heard the news. He just looked at me, and looked away. Not a word. That told me all I needed to know. It was true. It really had happened.
I couldn’t understand it, and 34 years later, I still can’t understand it. A man who dedicated himself to spreading the message of peace and love, shot in the back 5 times as he walked from his car to the door of his building. A violent death.
We lost our innocence that day. The world had changed in that moment. The unthinkable had happened, and nothing would ever be the same again.
I never say his name, the man who did it. Today, my own children talk about John Lennon often, like a member of our extended family. I tell them about his life and his music. His art and his philosophy. I tell them honestly of his death not shying away from the truth. If John Lennon had to live through it, we have to face it too. And I never, ever say the name of the man who stole Lennon from us. When they are old enough they can seek out information about that man if they want to, but I will not waste a single breath on him.
One of my sons is proud to have been given the name of Lennon and, at least in our household, John Lennon lives.